A Universal Flu Vaccine?

An antibody that binds 16 different flu viruses offers hope for the long-sought universal vaccine.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst
Jul 28, 2011

FLICKR, DFID, UK DEPARTMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

A newly discovered antibody may be the answer to seasonal flu vaccines. Sifting through more than 100,000 B cells from people that had been infected or immunized against various influenza strains, immunologist Antonio Lanzavecchia of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Bellinzona, Switzerland, and his colleagues found the first ever antibody that reacts to all 16 subtypes of the virus, including both group 1 and group 2 viruses, according to a study published yesterday in Science. The antibody binds to an interior stable region of the virus, Nature reports, and could serve as the basis of a universal vaccine that protects against the quickly evolving seasonal flu strains.

Though there are several steps before a single antibody is converted into a successful vaccine, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins thinks that such a vaccine may be available within the...